Patt Morrison for September 4, 2012

As Michelle Obama prepares to take the stage, a look back at the role of First Ladies

Charlotte Prepares For Democratic National Convention

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

First lady Michelle Obama waves at the podium during a soundcheck during preparations for the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 3, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC that will start on September 4 and run through September 7, will nominate U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate.

Patt Morrison reads the Charlotte Observer

Dave Coelho/KPCC

Patt Morrison reads the Charlotte Observer while working at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

The power of the First Lady is not enumerated in the U.S. Constitution. But the power of the position is on display during the national convention, and consistently brought to bear on the campaign trail. And for good reason.

Each of the last two presidents have enjoyed First Ladies with higher favorability ratings than the presidents themselves. What is the most effective role for a First Lady at the party’s national convention? How can she best sway voters on the campaign trail?


How has this role evolved since the founding of the republic...and especially in the media age?


Catherine Allgor, Professor of History at UC Riverside, University of California Presidential Chair, and an advisor to the National Women's History Museum; co-author of “The Queen of America: Mary Cutts’s Life of Dolley Madison” (University of Virginia Press; annotated edition edition August 13, 2012)

David Eisenbach, Professor of Political Science at Columbia, co-author of “One Nation Under Sex: How the Private Lives of Presidents, First Ladies and Their Lovers Changed the Course of American History” (Palgrave Macmillan 2011)

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